Greetings from Robbi and Jim

A warm welcome to all of the members of our Aroma Tours newsletter in more than 30 countries around the world.

Robbi and I are excited about this year's tour season which once again will be our "best year ever" and most wonderfully will include our highest ever number of returning Aroma Travellers.

We are now feeling quite settled into our new country home in Provincial Victoria ( please note our new address and phone numbers below ) and apart from some pesky weeds needing to be controlled, we are greatly enjoying the onset of Autumn colours and cooler days.

We feel truly blessed to see our dreams flourishing as we continue to share our passion for our Aroma Tours with wonderful people from around the world.

We invite you to visit our Aroma Tours site to enjoy the new photos in our Picture Galleries and to visit our Information Request Page for details of our current tours.

Aroma Travellers Our Thanks

One of the main reasons that we have continued to grow and flourish, is the on-going support we receive from past Aroma Travellers who consistently make up more than 20% of our bookings each year. In 2007 this tradition continues to grow and we are both excited and grateful to be welcoming back so many good friends.

Robbi and I would also like to give our heart-felt thanks to all of you who continue to support us with your kind words and referrals and by spreading news of our tours and retreats amongst your friends.

Latest Memorable Photos Pages

Jim has compiled two pages of memorable photos from last year's Aroma Tours adventures for you to enjoy at Memorable Photos #8 and Memorable Photos #9

We also encourage you to browse through our other Picture Gallery Pages to enjoy the hundreds of lovely images we have collected over the years.

Our Booking Status - 4th March 2007

Our fabulous season continues with several tours already fully booked and several more soon to follow suit. We are also pleased to report that next year's Turkish Aromatic Odyssey is already more than half full.

It is normal for us to receive a few booking cancellations for the current season at this time of year, so if you were keen to join us but there were no vacancies available, it is worth visiting our Calender of Events Page from time to time to check on our up to date booking status.

Our booking status as of 4th March 2007 is:-

If you are planning to join us in 2007 or would like to reserve your place for our 2008 Turkish Aromatic Odyssey please visit our Tour Booking Page

Please note: Bookings will shortly be opening for next year's Aromas of Tuscany tours: 6 - 13 and 13 - 20 May 2008. If you would like more information or perhaps to make an early booking please contact us at

The Story of Champagne - Part 1

The story of champagne begins with the Romans who planted the first vines in 52 BC and created extensive underground limestone quarries for their constructions which later became the famous network of "crayères" used for storing and ageing the wines of Champagne. 

"La Champagne" - the place, is feminine in the French language and has a very dark history full of war and suffering, yet "le champagne" - the wine, is associated with celebration, romance and good times. 

Nothing about le champagne is simple or straight forward; it is born of contradictions. It takes poor soil to make good champagne,  black grapes to make a white wine, and the man credited with creating the first champagne - "a blind man who saw stars", wasn't blind, made only red wines and spent most of his life working to keep the bubbles out of his wines.

The wines of La Champagne became associated with royalty in the fifth century AD with the Frankish king Clovis, who after having defeated the Romans, and establishing his kingdom around Reims, found himself facing almost certain defeat from invading Germanic tribes. 

Clovis's fiancé, a Christian, urged him to pray to her God for deliverance. Clovis who was a pagan, agreed and vowed that if God granted him victory, he would become a Christian. True to his word, after miraculously winning the un-winnable battle, on Christmas day 496, he and three thousand of his soldiers went to the church in Reims to be baptized. During the huge banquet that followed, the wine of Champagne was served. Not the champagne we know, but a cloudy, red wine with not a bubble in sight.

As a result of these events, the wines of La Champagne become famous as a celebratory drink and from then on, every king of France insisted on being crowned in Reims and celebrating afterwards with the wine of La Champagne.

It wasn't until 1686, during the rein of The Sun King ( Louis XIV ), when the son of a minor court official in eastern Champagne, Dom Pierre Pérignon, now a monk of the Benedictine order, arrived at the rundown abbey of Hautvillers, that the next chapter in the story begins:

After many years of neglect, the abbey of Hautvillers and its vineyards were in a sorry state and Dom Pérignon quickly realized that the only prospect of restoring the abbey, lay in resurrecting its once famous vineyard, whose wines had graced the table of King Phillipe-Auguste and been served at the coronations of Charles IV and Phillipe VI. 

So he began the back-breaking work of clearing rocks, removing weeds, importing soil and replacing poor quality vines, to: "Eliminate those that make nothing but common wine" and introduced new techniques that became know as the "Golden Rules of Winemaking" and are still in use today:

  • Use only the best grapes and discard those that are broken
  • Prune vines hard in early spring to avoid overproduction
  • Harvest in the cool of the morning
  • Press the grapes gently and keep the juices from each pressing separate.

He was also the first in Champagne to use corks for sealing bottles, rather than wooden pegs wrapped in oil soaked hemp.

By virtue of his wisdom, gifts of observation, genius for blending and assiduous hard work, Dom Pérignon succeed in making ( red ) wines with more concentration, clarity, delicacy and finesse, than anyone else's. He was also sure of what he had achieved. "Monsieur, I have given you twenty-six bottles of the best wine in the world."

Dom Pérignon didn't invent sparkling champagne ( no one did ), rather, he spent his whole career trying unsuccessfully to eliminate bubbles from his wines.

The bubbles were in fact caused by the early onset of cold weather in La Champagne which meant that the fermentation process was prematurely halted before the yeasts ( which went into hibernation ) had finished their work. Once the weather warmed up again in March, the yeasts would be resurrected and re-kindle the fermentation process. This capricious behaviour of nature was considered a flaw in the wine ( no one at the time knew about the role of yeasts ).

Louis XIV ( The Sun King ) like the other Kings of France before him, was crowned in Reims and celebrated  with the wines of La Champagne. Over the next fifty years he rarely drank anything else, and as a result of his patronage and the desire of other nobles in France and abroad to imitate him, the winemakers of Champagne ( and Louis ) became very prosperous indeed.

By the 1730's, Louis XV along with the rich and noble of Europe were rushing to experience the new fashion of drinking sparkling white wines from La Champagne. Louis even commissioned a painting "Le Déjeuner d'Huîtres" ( The Oyster Lunch ) showing for the first time the cheery explosion of a cork from a bottle of le champagne. For Louis this new wine was the perfect symbol of the good life - gaiety, lively conversation, and elegance.

In the beginning of this era, sparkling champagne only accounted for a tiny proportion of the wines coming from La Champagne, largely because of it's capricious nature; sometimes it was flat and lacked effervescence, and at other times was "green and hard as a dog".  Also it was dangerous, and due to its unpredictable habit of exploding in bottle, it was dubbed  "The Devil's Wine".

Workers in the cellars of Champagne were obliged to don metal masks and heavy clothing to try and protect themselves from these explosive bottles. In some cases 90% of the bottles were lost, leaving the cellars resembling "foamy swamps". Given the risks, many Champenois were amazed when a young winegrower by the name of Claude Moët announced that he was turning over his entire production to the creation of this Devil's sparkling white wine.

Moët was a consummate salesman and believed that a new era was at hand. He very cleverly introducing his new sparkling champagne to Louis' mistress Madame de Pompadour, who remarked that "champagne is the only wine that leaves a woman beautiful after drinking it". 

The celebrity of the new wine was further enhanced by the philosopher Voltaire ( a favourite of Madame de Pompadour's ) who wrote:  "De ce vin frais l'écume pétillante, De nos Français est l'image brilliante - The character of the French is mirrored in the sparkle of champagne.

Voltaire referred to the new sparking white wine simply as "champagne", rather than "vin de Champagne" as most people knew it at the time. It was a distinction that Madame de Pompadour was very adamant about and promoted strongly, and continues to this day.

<<< The story of champagne continues in our next newsletter  >>>

"I drink champagne when I am happy and when I am sad.  Sometimes I drink it when alone. In company I consider it compulsory. I sip a little if I am hungry. Otherwise I don't touch it - unless I'm thirsty of course."
 ~ Lily Bollinger

Flavours of Italy - Repeat

In our last newsletter I briefly mentioned our new Flavours of Italy Tour which is a 4 star sojourn from Florence to Venice that explores the flavours, culture and beauty of northern Italy, from the magnificent Ligurian coast to the fertile abundance of the Po valley and the lush vineyards and grand lakes of the Veneto region.

To begin, we stay in an elegant sea-side hotel with magnificent views of the Ligurian coast, visit gorgeous Medieval walled cities and the beautiful villages of the Cinque Terre, savour a long leisurely seafood lunch overlooking the millionaires playground of Portafino and journey through picture-book countryside.

Next, we stay in a beautifully restored villa full of antiques and elegance tucked away in the Po valley, where we sample and experience the production of Parmigiano Reggiano and balsamic vinegar and explore the rich culture of the region. We learn how to cook delicious, authentic Italian dishes from a Nona ( grandmother ) and take a VIP tour of Lamborghini, to see the creation of one of the world's most famous super sports cars, from the first piece of tubing and carbon fibre, to the complete 200,000 Euro plus ultimate boy's toy.

We then journey to the Veneto where we stay in an elegant boutique hotel in the heart of Verona with its rich historical and cultural heritage and fabulous shopping. We enjoy Verona's many delights at a leisurely pace and journey to the famous Valpolicella wine region, as well as Italy's largest and most beautiful lake. Then on to Venice where our tour ends.

We have found many delights for you to enjoy and invite you to take a peek at our Flavours of Italy Photos Page

Clinical Aromatherapy Retreat

This year will be the last time that we will be offering our Clinical Aromatherapy Retreat with world renowned aromatherapy expert Dr Daniel Penoel.

Due to our ever busier schedule of tours, Dr Penoel's other commitments and the closure of our preferred venue for the retreat later this year, sadly this will definitely be the last opportunity to participate in the intensive study of Clinical Aromatherapy with Dr Penoel.

If you would like to reserve one of the last few places please visit our Tour Booking Page

Please note: Our ever popular Provence Aromatherapy Retreat continues as always with Dr Penoel continuing to share his skills with us along with Dr Kurt Schnaubelt and Robbi Zeck.

Bali High

Robbi reports:  

The Balinese people are lovers of beauty in all forms and deeply spiritual according to their Hindu heritage. Many of the Balinese are in fact descended from the Javanese royal family and their court, who moved to Bali in the 15th century bringing with them their skills, customs, culture, art and religion. This has made Bali unique and a place of spirituality and beauty apart from the rest of the world.

Bali is where I go to be rejuvenated and feels like a time out of time where I automatically slow myself to the natural rhythms and rich culture around me. It is also the perfect place to share the nurturing and soul nourishing week of our Bali Women's Retreat

During our time out of time we can find ourselves watching fireflies dance in lush green rice paddies at night, inhaling the gentle aroma of Tuberose and Frangipani drifting on a warm breeze, listening to the haunting sounds of Gamelan music tinkling its way into our soul, lying in a warm bath strewn with aromatic flowers after a blissful 2 hour herbal massage and enjoying delicious healthy meals full of gentle spices and tropical flavours.

One of the most memorable experiences of my life occurred in 2005 during our visit to a traditional Balinese healer - known as a Balian.

Balians are the keepers of Balinese healing lore and once a Balian discovers his healing powers, he is thereafter totally devoted to his healing work, which is based on centuries old herbal lore and an understanding of the movement of energy through the body. A Balian's life is one of service and he does not ask for a fee in return for his services but rather accepts donations of food and sometimes money from the people in the community that he cares for.

Our Balian that year was a fourth generation healer and his insight and capacity to see into each person's energies and locate body stresses was awesome. Time after time as he gently worked he uncovered issues for each one of us that showed clearly his mastery of the healing arts. We laughed, we cried, had herbal tonics and pastes prescribed and came away in the sure knowledge that we had all been touched by the presence of greatness.

Jim has compiled a page of Memorable Photos from Bali for you to enjoy and to help give you a sense of the beauty and richness of experience that await you in Bali.

For more information about our Bali Women's Retreat please visit our Information Request Page

Please note: If you would like to join Robbi in Bali and will be flying from Australia to join the Retreat, it is important that you secure your flights fairly soon, because of the strong demand for flights to Bali in September.

Tarte Tartin

One of my favourite sweet treats during our time in Provence, occurs during our Essential Provence Tour as we dine in a wonderful, small, authentic, family owned restaurant perched beside a beautiful river.

Our meal is always delightful but as is often the case, there is one dish that has become a "Speciality de Maison" - Tarte Tartin.

Although it seems like a very simple dish, tart tartin can be a tricky recipe and there is more than a little art and skill involved.


Heavy 24cm (9.5in) diameter by 5cm (2in) deep round cake tin or smooth bottomed skillet.


150g finest quality puff pastry.
12 Granny Smith apples
60g unsalted butter slices
2 pinches of ground cinnamon
135g castor sugar

75g castor sugar
30g unsalted butter


  • Roll out the puff pastry on a lightly floured, clean, dry surface until it is to just larger than the diameter of the tin. Place on a tray lightly dusted with flour and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  • Cut out a circle slightly larger than the tin and refrigerate until required.
  • Preheat your oven to 190C (375F).
  • Prepare the caramel sauce by placing the 75g of castor sugar into your cake tin or skillet and cook with constant stirring at medium heat until the sugar turns a dark caramel colour. Turn off the heat and stir in the 30g of unsalted butter. Cool down for a few minutes, then carefully drain off any excess fat left from the butter.
  • Peel all the apples and cut eight of them in half vertically, then using a spoon, scoop out their cores and about half of the flesh. This allows them to fit together snugly when we assemble our tart.
  • Cut the remaining four apples into quarters and remove the cores.
  • Place the 16 scooped out apple halves around the edge of the tin/skillet, rounded side to scooped-out side ensuring that they fit together tightly. If necessary add a few extra scooped out halves so there are no gaps.
  • Arrange the apple quarters tightly in the middle of the tin to complete the layer of apples and evenly place the remaining butter slices on top.
  • Mix the cinnamon with the 135g of castor sugar and sprinkle over the apples and butter slices.
  • Bake the apples in your preheated oven, basting occasionally with a pastry brush, until a sharp knife falls into them under it's own weight. This can take anything from 25 to 40 minutes.
  • Remove the apples from the oven and lightly place the puff pastry circle on top. Trim around the tin with a sharp knife and tuck the edges in.
  • Cook the tart for a further 30 minutes then remove from the oven and allow to cool for 1 hour.
  • Turn the tart out on to a flat serving dish , pastry side down just before serving. Et voila!

The perfect accompaniment to our tart tartin is a generous scoop of finest vanilla ice-cream followed afterwards by a piping hot short black coffee.

Delivery: White Lists, Address Books and AOL

Over the years the circulation of our Aroma Tours newsletter has grown to more than 5000 subscribers and in these days of filters and anti-spam software it is becoming increasingly more difficult to be sure that our newsletter will arrive safely in your inbox. This is especially true for public services such as msn, yahoo and gmail.

There is of course good reason to have this filtering, however, as a consequence we recommend that you add our email address to your address book or white list ( if you have one ) to help ensure that our newsletter will continue to be delivered to you successfully.

AOL in particular are extremely pedantic about their rules for allowing newsletter posts through to their members. Jim has been working with the AOL postmaster to solve this problem but our only option at present for AOL subscribers is to send each newsletter by hand; with our 100's of AOL subscribers this takes Jim several hours. Consequently if you have an alternative non-AOL email address it would help us greatly if you could let us know at

  • If of course for any reason you would prefer to stop receiving our newsletter please don't hesitate to email us at to unsubscribe.

Arranging Your Travel

To join us on tour all your need to do is make your travel arrangements to meet us at our rendezvous point, either with the help of your travel agent, or for the more adventurous, by booking your flights and connections yourselves. All of our rendezvous are easily achieved and naturally we provide all of the information and assistance that you ( or your agent ) will need.

Just a reminder that we have a Frequently Asked Questions Page to help answer the most common questions including how to book, travel arrangements, group sizes.....

Previous Newsletters

Our past newsletters are well worth a browse and are available in our Newsletter Archives

You may also enjoy reading a few of the stories that Jim has compiled from his writings over the years on our Stories of Interest Page

Thought for the Day

"The most important trip you may take in life is meeting people halfway."
  ~ Henry Boye

Our Invitation

We are very excited about the year ahead and feel truly blessed to be able to share our passion for the places and experiences that we love with so many wonderful people.

Robbi and I look forward to welcoming you to one of our delightful tours or retreats and invite you to visit our Aroma Tours website for more information and to take a peek at the latest photos of our travels in our Picture Gallery

Details for all of our tours including our two new offerings Flavours of Italy and Provence Blossoming Heart Retreat  are available via our Information Request Page

As always if you have any questions or if you would like us to assist you personally with advice about your travel arrangements or with any other details please contact us either by email at or by phone on +61 3 5331 3254 ( afternoon/evening USA time zones, mornings from other countries ).

Warmest regards,

Jim and Robbi

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